The city has made its first major step toward converting cluster housing sites into affordable apartments. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city is closing in on the acquisition of nearly 500 cluster units across 17 buildings in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The units will become permanent affordable housing that will benefit more than 1,000 New Yorkers.
Last December, the city announced that it was looking to end the Guiliani-era cluster program, as a means to combat homelessness. Under the program, homeless individuals were housed in private apartments throughout the city, typically located in affordable developments, however, state law prohibited rent caps on these units which resulted in the city paying twice the average rent for many of these apartments.
The mayor pledged to abolish the system as part of his Turning the Tide on Homelessness Program and sent a list of 1,700 cluster apartments to the state agency that regulates rent, to ensure that the apartments became affordable and not market-rate housing. Following this, the city began negotiating the acquisition of cluster buildings by not-for-profit developers that would work with the Department of Housing and Development to rehabilitate and preserve the buildings as affordable housing for homeless families and low-income New Yorkers.
“Homeless families have for decades been haphazardly sheltered in temporary accommodations that are too often poorly maintained and disconnected from services,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “We’re converting these buildings into higher quality, permanent affordable housing for formerly homeless New Yorkers turning their lives around.”
Under the first phase of this initiative, 468 units across 17 cluster sites will be converted into permanently affordable apartments and non-profit providers like Samaritan Village and HELP USA will offer social services and support to help homeless families “get back on their feet and transition to living independently,” says the de Blasio administration.
According to the New York Daily News, officials stated that the purchase of the properties would be at market-rate, though the city is not ruling out the use of eminent domain for other stages of the plan. De Blasio is aiming to phase out the remaining 1,400 cluster units by 2021.